Monday, May 31, 2010

trip planning

At this time next week, Steve and I will be finishing up a weekend in Seattle for Chrissy and Kevin's wedding.  We leave on Thursday afternoon, and in the meantime, I'm getting in the last bits of trip planning.  Starting pretty much from scratch a few months ago, I've worked out tentative itineraries for each of the 4-5 days we'll be in town.
By "from scratch," I mean I had somewhat little knowledge of Seattle before I started.  I suspect I may have been there once before when I was kid on a family vacation, but other than a vague possible memory of standing under the Space Needle (did I make that up?), I have no proof.  There are holes in my collection of family photos, so they're no help.  I do know that we went to Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, WA, probably around 1993.  I had postcards from there on the bulletin board in my room for years.  Ohme Gardens is only 2-3 hours from Seattle, so it's entirely possible that we stopped in the city on that trip.  Most of the time, however, my family stuck to the National Parks, historic sites, and museums, with an occasional amusement park to keep my sister and me happy.  We often went "out west" and stayed away from major cities, which is probably why I had never been to San Francisco until Steve moved here.  As time went by, there were more and more train and plane museums—my father's weapon of choice.  By the time I was in high school, I started staying with my sister Christine and her kids while my parents went on vacation.
As I am quickly figuring out, my kind of vacation is quite different from that of my parents.  Sure, I like the occasional National Park.  I remember having fun at Arches when I was a kid, and Steve and I visited Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island during our honeymoon.  But as a whole, I think I prefer to explore cities and neighborhoods on my vacations.  Therefore, our plan for the Seattle trip next weekend will be to do just that: explore some of Seattle's neighborhoods, eat some good food, drink some Seattle coffee, and of course, see Chrissy get married.

I honestly don't know how people planned vacations like this before the internet, though.  I suppose guidebooks and travel agents were more essential then.  For this trip, I've made my own guidebook and served as my own travel agent.  I've looked at countless websites, blogs, Yelp, and Flickr searches to figure out where we want to go and what we want to eat.  (The prettier, the better.)  I've also gotten a few recommendations from Chrissy and from Steve's cousin who lives in the area.
It's all part of my newly developed trip-planning strategy: search for things that look good, mark them on a customizable Google map of the area, list them in a Google document by location, divide into separate itineraries for each day, then write down everything in a handy-dandy moleskin notebook that can go in my camera bag.  (Steve and I still have sucky old phones without internet, and Steve doesn't have 3G for his iTouch or iPad.  Otherwise, that would probably be easier and more high-tech.) 

The system works pretty well, really.  Because of Google Maps, I now have a good idea of the geography of downtown Seattle and the surrounding neighborhoods.  The only thing missing from the map is an idea of how hilly the place is.  At this point, everything looks really walkable.  We can easily walk from our hotel near Pike Place Market to Capitol Hill or Queen Anne.  It's just a mile or two away.  Of course, we may find when we get there that there are steep hills everywhere...  Good thing we live in San Francisco.  Even though we're in one of the flatest areas of the city, we're probably more used to climbing hills than the average person.  Lesser hills feel like nothing after you've lived here for a while.  And if I have comfortable shoes on, a mile is an easy walk.  It's like going to Noe Valley or to the awesome donut shop in the Mission or to Dolores Park.  Once I started mapping things on Google, I was surprised at the number of places we frequent that are almost exactly one mile away.
Our plan is to have dinner in Belltown after arriving on Thursday and spend Friday in Capitol Hill.  Saturday is the wedding, so we'll have to pick up the rental car after lunch and drive northeast.  We'll return the car on Sunday morning and take a bus up to Fremont for the Sunday Farmers Market, see the Fremont Troll, and meet Steve's cousin and her family at Gasworks Park after lunch.  Hopefully, there will be time for a walk up to Wallingford for coffee, cupcakes or gelato before we have to hop another bus west to Ballard.  We'll have dinner that night at Delancey, the artisan pizza restaurant that blogger Molly Wizenberg and her husband opened last year.  Monday, our last full day, will probably be devoted to exploring Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the neighborhood of Queen Anne.
I have all the necessary landmarks pinpointed on maps of the neighborhoods that I printed out from Google and glued into my moleskin: restaurants, coffee shops, cupcake stores, ice cream places, cute independent boutiques, and the occasional tourist spot, like the Space Needle.  Sadly, there's no way we'll have time to visit them all—especially the ones that involve eating—but at least we'll know our options.
Now we just have to hope it doesn't rain too much while we're there.

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